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New ratings system prompts time change for Nancy Alexander

In traditional radio's old school world, it sounds like a serious demotion.

But Nancy Alexander insists her move to a 2 p.m. midday shift at WMTX-FM 100.7 on Monday — after 10 years leading the station's morning show — isn't a step down. Instead, she says it's a step toward a new audience prompted by a new way of counting who listens: the pager-sized Portable People Meter.

"It was like I got hit in the head with a frying pan," said Alexander of the moment station executives suggested the move. "But it was absolutely my choice. And in our format, afternoons are the new mornings."

The change includes a shuffle of positions, with Alexander's co-host Chris Randolph leaving for a job in Louisville, where he will lead a morning show and also appear on Mix 100.7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. remotely. A New York-based program, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, takes Alexander's former 6 a.m. slot. Former Entertainment Tonight star John Tesh's 9 a.m. show goes to 9 p.m.

All this was set off by data showing a larger audience in middays for adult contemporary music stations, said Doug Hamand, operations manager for Clear Channel Radio in Tampa.

Under the old system, a sample of listeners would fill out diaries listing what they heard each day, often based on what they could recall later. With the new system, brought to Tampa by Arbitron in July, the small meter senses when the wearer passes by a radio signal, automatically tabulating what he or she hears.

The new results have already brought some changes. Hamand noted that Todd "MJ" Schnitt is now playing more music an hour during his morning show, and some programs have lost ratings.

"The new (ratings) get people turning on at work," said Hamand, who noted Alexander's morning show fell in ratings among women age 25 to 54 under the new system, going from the top five to 11th place.

In the afternoons, Schnitt's 3 p.m. show for WFLA-AM 970, Steve Duemig's show on WDAE-AM 620 and Cowhead on WHPT-FM 102.5 all compete for top male ratings, he added.

"This is an opportunity for Nancy to come in and be the other end of the spectrum," Hamand said.

While some may worry about losing the top female voice in mornings — especially following the departures of WFLA-AM's Sharon Taylor and WBPT-FM 95.7's Olivia Fox in recent years — one expert said it may not hamper attracting female listeners.

"We know adult contemporary music tends to attract a female audience, political talk attracts a male audience," said Gabe Hobbs, an industry consultant who was a senior executive at Clear Channel Radio before a January layoff. "It doesn't matter who is hosting the content."

Taylor, who was let go in September, acknowledged Tampa Bay radio has few leading female voices. "But I see it more as the loss of another local voice in the mornings," she said. "When you're local, there's still that connection, where people can see you around town and you're talking about hometown issues."

Alexander is looking forward to dinners with her children after years of waking up at 4 a.m.

"It's a new challenge," she said. "And I haven't had one in a long time."

Eric Deggans can be reached at (727) 893-8521 or deggans@sptimes.com. See The Feed blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.

New ratings system prompts time change for Nancy Alexander 12/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 1:12pm]
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